December 31, 2017

A good way to end the year

In the latter years of his life, the Apostle Paul expressed that his confidence was not in himself or his many credentials and accomplishments. He had a powerful life of influence yet his confidence remained solidly in Jesus Christ.

“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh — though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more . . . . But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:3–11)

Not too many days ago, I could fully relate to these verses. At least, my confidence seemed to be in Christ and I had my usual level of energy and ambition, but today, I realize how easily I can put my confidence in my health and energy levels. About two weeks ago, my heart went into mild A-Fib again. This had not been a big issue because it didn’t slow me down much. However, last night and today I feel as if a truck is sitting on my chest. We are sitting in an airport waiting for our flight to take us home, and I feel as if I am waiting instead for Jesus to take me home.

Perhaps this is just fatigue, the kind you feel if you sleep with a pillow over your head and cannot get enough air. I hope so. Yet regardless of what is going on, the psalmist gives me words of comfort.

 “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73:23–28)

Paul also said about his confidence in Christ:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us . . . . our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:12–21)

Jesus, right now the prospect of having my lowly body transformed to be like Your body is appealing. Maybe a couple days sleep will change things, but at the moment, I am particularly glad that You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Also, this is a good note on which to end 2017 and begin a new year — the note of helplessness and being completely dependent upon You.

December 30, 2017

Listening to God profits my life

God has taught me to read Scripture and listen for ‘rhema’ which means God speaking to my need for that day or even that moment. One of the things that help this process was an exercise taught to me by several mentors.

They said to read a passage and when something stops me (or hits me between the eyes!) then ponder it. What is God saying to me in that portion? How does it convict me of sin? What does it show me about God? About Jesus Christ? About the Holy Spirit? How does it teach me about life? Each time I did this, I was laying myself open to ‘rhema’ and God used these exercises to help me listen to Him and help me grow in my faith and knowledge of Him.

Some portions of Scripture are particularly helpful for such reading. They are rich in various ways. The devotional passage for today (which I have expanded to cover more verses) is one of those. Even though “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17) this passage bundles all those elements into just a few words:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:1–10)

The very first phrase calls for personal examination. Am I really a Christian? Do I have the new life that faith in Him produces? If so, then I ought to be thinking a certain way and living a certain way.

The next part tells me why. I am dead to that old life and going back to it makes no sense. Then the passage gets specific. Am I struggling with any of these things? If so, I need to remember their end; God’s wrath! I used to live like that — and ‘rhema’ will tell me which ones need my special attention — but also remind me that these things are put off. Christ has changed me; I have a new life and my thoughts and behavior ought to show it.

This is God’s way of renewing, of teaching reproving, correcting and training in righteousness. He wants to complete or perfect me so that I am able to do everything and anything that He might ask of me. This is not about God being a task-master who cracks a whip, but God as a mentor, a life-guide, a life-changer. He wants me to become the very best person that I can possibly be and as I listen to Him, He shows me every detail of what to think, how to talk, and how to live, that will not only bring out the godliness He has put in, but will also be helpful to others and bring glory to His Name.

Jesus, I cannot thank You enough for speaking into my life. You do it every day, sometimes more than once, and as I am learning to listen, I’m also learning to be more like You. I know how stubborn I’ve been, how blind, and often how deaf, but You persist and in that persistence, You are saving me and changing my life for good. Thank You, thank You!

December 29, 2017

Waiting with patience

In our busy lives, my husband often teases me about the multiple ideas that come into my head. I say I want to make this quilt, or change that, or do something and he smiles and says, “Well, what are you waiting for?”

That is a good question, but not in the usual sense. In our world, people are in a hurry and seldom enjoy waiting for anything. Traffic is one example, as is Christmas. It starts right after November 11 even earlier. Children display impatience too, every time they say, “Are we there yet?” However, I’m not thinking about the impatient kind of waiting, but the waiting we do with great anticipation.

For instance, today we attend a birthday party for a cousin. He is soon going to be 100 years old! Visiting him yesterday was a delight. He is excited about this party and preparing his ‘speech’ with great anticipation. He was not impatient in the sense that he wanted the party to happen ‘right now’ but in the sense that he was looking forward to it.

Christians are supposed to have that kind of anticipation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. However, this morning’s devotional passages opened my eyes to another example of waiting, not what I am supposed to wait for but what Jesus is waiting for!

“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12–14)

Jesus waits. The word used means to expect, yet it is tied to patience. It is like waiting for the bread to finish baking in the oven, or waiting for the rose bud to open into full bloom. It is knowing with certainty that something is going to happen, but not yet, and not being anxious that it happens asap.

Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He knows that all those who oppose Him will bow with the rest who already acknowledge that He is Lord. He sits at the right had of the Father with that knowledge and waits for it to happen. He is not anxious, but patiently expectant.

These verses even illustrate this with another concept. Jesus has perfected His people by His sacrifice. In Him, we are perfectly righteous. In this life, we are set apart for Him (sanctified) until that perfection is made evident. It is like having a million dollars deposited in the bank for me. That money belongs to me, but it is not ‘spendable’ until withdrawn. I have the perfection of holiness, even though most of it is on deposit!

Jesus, my cousin’s party starts in a few hours. We are excited. However, I’m also waiting with anticipation for the Your appearing and the fulfillment of Your promises. We are not there yet, and most of the time I’m not impatient. But I must admit that on occasion I say, “Please come, Lord Jesus.”

LATER: What a lovely party! We feasted and sang, visited and made new friends. The party has come and gone, but left us with wonderful memories. Thanks to all who conveyed their best wishes. My cousin is tired, but totally happy.